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Newcastle RNLI has launched a festive 10K, 5K and one-mile fun run to help save lives at sea.

Appealing to the seasoned athlete as well as families and fun runners wanting to get some exercise while getting into the Christmas spirit, the event will take place on Sunday 11 December around the Castlewellan Lake on a mainly flat terrain.

The 10K and 5K events will be chip-timed with prizes for the winners and an iconic RNLI all-weather lifeboat medal for all participants.

The one-mile Christmas dash, meanwhile, is open to everyone and suitable for those bringing families and those with prams and/or pets.

While fun runners won’t be timed, they too will receive a Christmas medal for their efforts. There will also be prizes for the most festive costumes.

For those who can’t do the run on the day but would still like to take part, there will be a virtual option. Simply do the 10K in your own time, send Strava/Garmin or equivalent evidence of completion to RNLI community manager Nuala Muldoon at [email protected] and you will receive a medal in the post.

All participants, whether running on the day or putting in the steps at home, will receive a medal for their efforts | Credit: RNLI/NewcastleAll participants, whether running on the day or putting in the steps at home, will receive a medal for their efforts | Credit: RNLI/Newcastle

Speaking ahead of the event, Muldoon said: “This is a wonderful Christmas event with options to be competitive in either the 10K or 5K, to enjoy the fun run with family or friends, or do it in your own spare time virtually.

“We want people to really get into the Christmas spirit by dressing up, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying a well-deserved mince pie and some Christmas fun at the finish line.

“All proceeds raised from the Castlewellan event will go to Newcastle RNLI. Every time a RNLI crew launches, they are determined to save every one. But they can’t do that without the generosity of the public who support events such as these and raise vital funds.

“By taking on the Castlewellan 10K/5K or one mile fun run, participants are helping to keep our volunteers safe. Every penny they raise makes a difference. It helps the charity to recruit and train volunteers and could fund the kit they need to protect themselves. It helps ensure a lifeboat is ready when the call comes and it enables our safety advice to reach as many people as possible so they can stay safe by the water.”

In 2021, lifeboats at Northern Ireland’s 10 stations launched 297 times bringing 370 people to safety, seven of whom were lives saved.

During the lifeguard season, RNLI teams located on 11 beaches along the Causeway Coast and in Co Down responded to 330 incidents, coming to the aid of 384 people, one of whom was a life saved.

To register for the Castlewellan 10K/5K and one-mile festive fun run on Sunday 11 December, click HERE.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Donaghadee RNLI rescued a lone sailor on Friday afternoon (18 November) after his 27ft yacht broke down off the Copeland Islands north of Northern Ireland’s Ards Peninsula.

The volunteer crew were requested by Belfast Coastguard to launch their all-weather lifeboat just after 11.30am and go to the aid of the sailor, who had got into difficulty during his passage from Kircubbin on Strangford Lough to Carrickfergus.

The lifeboat, under coxswain John Ashwood and with five crew onboard, was launched immediately from Donaghadee and made its way to the scene half a mile northwest of Lighthouse Island.

Weather conditions at the time were challenging with a Force 5-6 northwesterly fresh breeze and a lumpy swell.

Once on scene, the crew observed that the sailor was safe and well. He had got into difficulty when a rope was caught around a propellor of the yacht, causing the engine to cut out and leave him without power which also led the vessel to drift. He raised the alarm via his mobile phone.

With the lifeboat alongside the yacht, the crew assessed the situation and a decision was made to pass a towline to the sailor. This proved difficult given the weather and the swell, but a tow was successfully established.

With the yacht under tow, the lifeboat began to make slow progress in the weather to reach the nearest safe port at Bangor Marina, a passage that took approximately an hour.

Speaking following the callout, Ashwood said: “We found the sailor safe and well and wearing his buoyancy aid but as he was very cold, we were glad to bring him back to the safety of the shore in Bangor.

“We would encourage anyone planning a trip to sea at this time of year to go prepared. Always check the weather forecast and tide times and always wear the appropriate clothing for your activity.

“Check your engine is well maintained and that you have the appropriate means of calling for help should you need it such as a VHF radio or a mobile phone. Should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Newcastle RNLI came to the aid of a lone sailor early this morning after his 20ft boat got into difficulty and ran aground at the entrance to Dundrum inner bay.

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat shortly after 9.30 am following the report from Belfast Coastguard that a vessel with one person onboard had run aground.

The lifeboat, helmed by Thomas Davis and with three crew members onboard, was deployed and swiftly made its way to the scene in a southerly Force 4 wind. The lifeboat arrived on scene to a strong swell in the bar mouth.

The crew assessed the situation and found the sailor to be safe and well. They then made a decision to tow the boat off the sand and back to the nearest safe port which was the vessel’s moorings in Dundrum.

Speaking following the call out, Johnny Whyte, Newcastle RNLI Deputy Launching Authority said: ‘The sailor was found to be safe and well but he did the right thing raising the alarm for help when he knew he was difficulty.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Footage from the RNLI shows the volunteer lifeboat crew battling through 2-3metre swells, rain and winds of up to 35mph before reaching the two men who had managed to escape the sinking plane and climb inside a liferaft, fitted with a personal locator beacon.

All three of Jersey RNLI’s lifeboats launched – from St Helier and St Catherine – in a major multi-agency operation on Thursday, 3 November, which also involved Jersey Coastguard, Channel Islands air search and a French rescue helicopter.

One of the pilots onboard, Paul Clifford, said: ‘If the RNLI hadn’t rescued us it would have been a different story. I don’t know of anyone else who’s been in that situation and survived.

‘I was undergoing some advanced refresher training when, at the furthest point from the runway, the engine lost power. We did all we could to get the engine going again, but had to ditch the plane. We knew it was incredibly risky and we were unlikely to survive.

‘We climbed onto the wing and had our lifejackets on, and liferaft prepared. We were stood on the wing for around three minutes before the plane went down.’

Locating the casualties was made simpler by the personal locator beacon they were carrying – a portable, battery-powered radio transmitter used in emergencies to locate people in distress at sea in need of immediate rescue.

James Hope, volunteer lifeboat helm at St Helier RNLI, said: ‘The casualties’ use of a personal locator beacon greatly improved their chances of survival and enabled us to find them in under an hour in the gale-force conditions.

‘It’s very hard to spot such a small craft in such big swells, so to actually find two people eight miles out to sea in a liferaft is an amazing feeling; it’s why we do what we do.

‘If you are heading out to sea this winter, please check your equipment and make sure you are carrying the right safety equipment for your journey.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

On Monday afternoon (7 November), as Courtmacsherry RNLI paid tribute to Mary O'Mahony, wife of former crew member Richard and sister-in-law of former coxswain Diarmuid, the station crew and officers taking part in the guard of honour outside the station were alerted that two dogs were in imminent danger stranded on the nearby sandbanks as the tide was rapidly coming in.

The inshore boathouse lifeboat, under coxswain Tadgh MacCarthy with crew members Stuart Russell and Dave Philips, was launched immediately and proceeded at speed towards the last sightings of the dogs.

Charting a tight course to the Burren coastline in West Cork, the lifeboat crew used all their local knowledge to get close to the two dogs in worsening weather conditions.

The lifeboat was able to quickly reach the dogs, who were by this time in the water, and guide both to the safety of the shoreline where locals who had seen the danger unfolding had gathered alongside station officer Garry Barrett.

Both animals were found to be in good condition when getting ashore and were lucky that they had not been swept away in a quick-running sea.

Philip White, Courtmacsherry RNLI’s deputy launching authority praised the quick action of the lifeboat crew: “It was really great to see many members of the public reporting the incident and contacting the lifeboat station with their concerns as it would be vital that owners or locals did not attempt to rescue the dogs themselves in a fast incoming tide.”

Monday was also a very special day for the station as four coxswains — Sean O’Farrell, Mark Gannon, Ken Cashman and Peter Nunan — departed in the early morning to commence their week-long training in Poole on the south Coast of England for the new Shannon Class lifeboat which will arrive in Courtmacsherry in mid January.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Portaferry RNLI came to the aid of kayakers who got into difficulty near Kilard Point late yesterday afternoon (Monday, 7 November).

Portaferry RNLI’s volunteer crew launched their inshore Atlantic 85 class lifeboat promptly at 2.20 pm and made their way to Kilard Point in Strangford Lough. The crew launched in cloudy weather conditions with good visibility, a Force Six south-westerly wind direction and a moderate sea state.

When on scene at 2.30 pm the crew searched the Kilcief shoreline for two kayakers reported to be in one inflatable kayak. After an update from HM Coastguard, the lifeboat crew commenced a search one mile east of St. Patrick’s Rock, Strangford Lough, where they faced weather conditions of a Force 8-10. Whilst completing the search, the crew spotted the two kayakers located 50 yards off the fairway buoy.

The two men who were safe and well were taken onboard the lifeboat and the inflatable kayak was left on scene due to the adverse conditions. The lifeboat crew then took the kayakers to Strangford pontoon where they were transferred into the care of the NI Ambulance service.

Commenting on the call out, Portaferry RNLI Helm Dave Fisher said: ‘Despite the adverse weather conditions on scene, the quick actions by the lifeboat crew resulted in a favourable outcome. Thankfully the two kayakers were returned to shore with no injuries. Their ability to raise the alarm to the Coastguard via a mobile device was the right choice to make’.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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An Omagh man who was rescued by the Irish Coast Guard after he was caught in a rip current off a Donegal beach in July has completed the Dublin Marathon in his bare feet to raise awareness of water safety and to raise funds for the RNLI.

A seasoned open water swimmer, Chris Gallagher was visiting Murder Hole Beach when he got caught in a rip current.

“I am an experienced swimmer, having previously been a lifeguard and a world record swimmer as well as swimming all over the world including in Australia but I have never been caught like this before,” he said of his ordeal.

“I wasn’t even 10 metres out into the water when the ferocious rip caught me and threw me about like what I can only describe as being in an industrial washing machine and a racing car at the same time, it was powerful, and I had absolutely no control.

“I felt calm initially as I know how to work my way out of a rip curl as I was caught in Australian waters 22 years ago but nothing I tried worked.

“By the grace of God, a rock was in my grasp as I was being pulled into the rip roaring waters and I managed to get my body out of the water onto that wee rock but I was fighting the waves to stay on as they threw me on and off like a rag doll. I was clinging to the rock for dear life for two hours.”

Given the conditions, the Sligo-based coastguard helicopter Rescue 118 was tasked to the scene and rescued Gallagher from the water.

‘I am an experienced swimmer…but I have never been caught like this before’

Since he was rescued, Gallagher has signed up to be a water safety volunteer with the RNLI with a particular interest in highlighting the dangers of open water swimming.

He has also taken part in a series of inspiring fundraising events with his most recent venture to not only undertake the Dublin Marathon but to do it in his bare feet, which he completed successfully last Sunday (30 October). He also completed the Kerry Hardman Ironman triathlon on his birthday in August and in September a 5k swim of Glencar Lough in Sligo.

To round off his series of events, he is running an Eighties-themed night this Saturday 5 November in the Village Inn in Killyclogher. Proceeds from all events will go to Bundoran RNLI and Lough Erne’s two RNLI lifeboat stations, at Enniskillen and Carrybridge in Northern Ireland.

Speaking of Gallagher’s efforts to raise both funds and water safety awareness, RNLI community manager Nuala Muldoon said: “Chris really is an inspiration and his own rescue story highlights how even the most experienced water users can still find themselves in difficulty.

“We are delighted that he is now promoting water safety and are in awe at how adventurous he has been in setting himself courageous challenges in his pursuit to raise funds.

“Thanks to Chris, the proceeds raised will now power our lifesaving volunteer crews to continue their good work in saving lives both at sea and on inland waters.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Baltimore RNLI lifesavers in West Cork feature in the new series of Saving Lives at Sea documentary

The RNLI volunteer crew at Baltimore will feature in the final episode of the new series of the popular BBC Two programme Saving Lives at Sea next week.

Featuring rescue footage, the primetime documentary series lets viewers witness rescues through the eyes of the RNLI lifesavers while meeting the people behind the pagers.

The popular 10-part documentary is now in its seventh series and includes the lifesaving work of RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews from around Ireland and the UK.

Including interviews with lifeboat crews, the series will also hear from the rescuees and their families who are here to tell the tale, thanks to the RNLI.

Baltimore All Weather Lifeboat - please credit Michael MacSweeney / ProvisionBaltimore All Weather Lifeboat - Photo: Michael MacSweeney / Provision

This forthcoming episode on BBC2 at 7 pm next Thursday, 10 November, includes Baltimore RNLI’s rescue in July this year when the crew were called to assist a lone sailor whose catamaran had capsized 70 miles off the coast of Baltimore. As Afloat reported at the time, the sailor had been taking part in a race when he got into difficulty, and on arrival, the lifeboat crew found him on the upturned hull of the catamaran in which he had been racing in single-handedly. The Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew, Rescue 117 from Waterford, were also involved in the rescue.

Baltimore RNLI Coxswain Aidan Bushe, who will feature in the upcoming episode, says: ‘This call out was a great example of a joint-agency rescue where we worked together with our colleagues in the Irish Coast Guard under difficult conditions to save a life.

‘We are delighted to see this rescue featured on this year’s series of Saving Lives at Sea. Our lifesaving work would not be possible without donations from the public, and we are delighted to be able to share a frontline view of the rescues they support with their kind generosity.’

In 2021, RNLI lifeboats in Ireland launched 1,078 times, coming to the aid of 1,485 people, 21 of whom were lives saved. Baltimore RNLI launched 25 times, bringing 33 people to safety.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Carrybridge RNLI helms Chris Cathcart and David Reid have served 20 years rescuing those on trouble on Lough Erne in Northern Ireland.

During a recent visit to the station by the RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie, they were presented with medals to thank them for their volunteering service.

Over the past 20 years since the lifeboat station was formed on Upper Lough Erne, Chris and David have been involved in hundreds of rescues involving a wide variety of callouts.

Between the two volunteers, they have attended all manner of shouts on Lough Erne including to people, boats and also stranded animals in distress.

In addition to the helm role, Chris is the lifeboat training coordinator and press officer while David is the inshore lifeboat/launch and recovery plant mechanic. Both are also casualty carers and shore crew.

At a presentation held at the end of the summer, Lord Erne presented 17 of the Carrybridge volunteers with the late Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal. The commemorative medal was created to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and awarded to those crew who had served more than five years with the charity.

Stephen Scott, lifeboat operations manager at Carrybridge RNLI praised Chris and David on their fantastic achievement.

“Chris and David carry a pager at all times and when the alarm goes off whether it be day or night, summer or winter both can be relied upon to respond to go to those in need,” he said. “It was a privilege for the volunteers to also be presented with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal by Lord Erne and his wife.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Clifden RNLI’s volunteer crew launched the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat on Monday afternoon (24 October) to assist nine people who were caught by the tide on Omey Island in western Connemara.

Malin Head Coast Guard requested assistance from Clifden RNLI just before 4pm and the lifeboat launched immediately after under the command of volunteer helm Kenny Flaherty.

Weather conditions at the time were poor with heavy rain. However the nine people stranded on the island were found to be well and in good spirits.

The lifeboat crew proceeded to make two trips with the casualties back to the shore at Claddaghduff and safely returned all nine people to the mainland.

Speaking after the shout, Clifden RNLI lifeboat operations officer John Brittain said: “We would remind locals and visitors to always check tide times and heights before venturing out and to always make sure you have enough time to return safely.

“If you do get cut off by the tide, it is important to stay where you are and not attempt a return to shore on your own as that may be when the danger presents and you get into difficulty. Always carry a means of communication and should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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